The Incompetent Gardner

16 June 2024

Freddy; the incompetent Gardner.

In today’s gospel, we are given two short parables for the price of one. Please don’t feel cheated, a lot is going on here within just a few short verses.

I have to say that I am not much taken with our friendly gardener who for privacy reasons I will call Freddy. I wish Freddy had met Costa (shave for a cure) Georgiadis from Gardening Australia.

Let me explain

In the first parable, the theological gurus tell me that the word used to describe Freddy’s sowing technique is a word for ‘throw’ or ‘toss’. So our hapless gardener Freddy just seems to chuck it out there willy-nilly. There is no forward planning or thinking. The seed will fall where it will and you would think that some thought and care might make for a better harvest.

Further, There is no mention of fertiliser (as in the parable of the fig tree Luke13;8,9) nor is there any mention of doing any weeding or watering. Nope, none of that… Freddy simply chucks it out there and seemingly there is no follow-up or care. Almost a cowboy attitude.

Our suspicion of Freddy’s incompetence is backed up when we read

“the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how.”

Freddy simply goes to bed at night and wakes up in the morning leaving the field to grow on its own.

In the second parable we have another horticultural bungle.

We often think of the mustard seed as growing into a large tree which is in fact how Luke tells the story. (Luke 13:18-19) But Mark uses a word which translates to more of a shrub than a large tree.

Now when the gardener plants his mustard seeds he no doubt intends to have a nice addition to his herb garden just in case he wants to make some hot english mustard. Yet in this parable the mustard seed’s value is not because of its flavour, but rather because it provides shade for the birds. Surely this is not what our tragic gardener Freddy intended! Imagine planting a mustard seed or a tomato seedling or a pumpkin plant hoping for some delicious fruit and all you get is a semi aviary type structure that provides shelter for the birds. Birds that are pests, birds that peck and eat at our yummy produce well before we get a chance to protect our fruit and enjoy it. We are the ones who are supposed to eat the fruit of our labours, not those feathered pesky critters.

But the parables offer some encouragement and some warning.

First, the gospel has its own inherent power. It doesn’t require us to be highly skilled planters or attentive horticulturist’s or even to join the Costa fan club. All the gospel needs to grow is for us to scatter it out into the world. We don’t even have to sow it carefully. We just toss it out there as best we can. And keep on being faithful in this vocation. The innate power of the gospel will do the rest.

A Warning. We as the Church often like to think that we know what we’re doing as planters of the gospel. We think we know how to plant the gospel in the world and it's so easy to fret and strategise about how to spread the gospel, that we forget to toss the seed out into the world which is in fact, the only thing we are required to do.

And in the parable of the mustard seed  we need to be mindful of trying to control the outcomes. We may plant a seed with one intention only to discover when it comes to fruition, that its usefulness is entirely different from that which we anticipated. We might think that we are growing a spice garden, when in actual fact we are in the throes of building an aviary or even a menagerie.

But be encouraged brothers and sisters. Taken together our two little parables tell us that the incompetence of Freddy  is not important to the outcome. Freddy’s lack of understanding, our lack of understanding, does not undermine the capacity of the gospel to grow into a bountiful harvest. Nor does our intention to harvest one thing prevent God from doing something completely different. Thank Goodness.

Our task is simply to be faithful. To go on being faithful . Not to fret about the outcomes and the bottom lines and how big the marrow will be. We ought not be too invested in what we think is our lack of expertise and we dare not take credit for whatever may be produced by our flimsy and chaotic efforts.

The kingdom of heaven grows not because of us but in spite of us. It flourishes where it will and how it will. It comes to fruition in its own time. Not when we say it should. And it will and must shelter those we think are a pesky nuisance and who irritate us the most. So here’s to Freddy the Gardener and Peter Cundell who join me in saying

“And that’s your blooming lot for the week”.

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